Summer is often the season where we feel more self-conscious about our bodies. The warmer weather brings with it the opportunity to wear less clothing – clothes that would usually cover up areas of your body that you are not happy with such as your stomach.
We’re all aware of the dreaded ‘bikini fear’ before we head off on holiday and bare all on the beach – often due to insecurities about our stomachs.
A stomach overhang
A common reason for this insecurity and anxiety around baring your stomach on the beach or at the pool is ‘abdominal panniculus’ – the scientific name for stomach overhang that hangs down in front – like an apron of fat. This fatty tissue growth is not only uncomfortable and unsightly, but it is also a health risk.
Not everyone who is overweight will have this stubborn layer of fat on their stomach, but in severe cases this layer of fat can appear to be suspended or hang and reach the knees or lower.
A stomach overhang can form after fast weight loss, a result of obesity or after pregnancy. Sometimes this excess skin and fatty tissue can be mistaken for a hernia or tumour.
What causes stomach overhang?
A stomach overhang can be caused by a number of reasons, including:
- Weight changes
One thing’s for sure – no-one should have to suffer the distress caused by stomach overhang. The good news is that there are things you can do to either remove stomach overhang completely or considerably reduce it.
The primary cause of stomach overhang is excess fat gathered in the area around the midriff. If you wish to remove this fat, you need to reduce the fat both on the surface and also around your organs.
The ideal scenario is to reduce or remove the fat, then tone the stomach area.
The best way of getting rid of stomach overhang is a surgical procedure known as abdominoplasty, which will remove it completely.
This procedure tightens the stomach muscles and removes excess skin and fatty tissues from the middle and lower abdominal region. Liposuction is often performed alongside abdominoplasty for the best results.
Abdominoplasty can’t be performed on very overweight patients, so if you are considerably overweight you will need to lose weight until you are within several pounds of your ideal weight before the procedure can be carried out.
Opt for CoolSculpting
For a non-surgical approach to getting rid of stomach overhang, consider a course of CoolSculpting treatments.
CoolSculpting is carried out without anaesthetic and there’s no downtime necessary after the procedure. Precisely controlled cooling is delivered to the stomach area, crystallising the fat cells which are then naturally eliminated from your body. You’re left with a sculpted stomach, with no side effects from surgery.
CoolSculpting is also ideal to treat stubborn areas such as the upper arms, inner and outer thighs and even under the chin.
Count your calories
To lose weight – either to reduce stomach overhang or before abdominoplasty – you need to eat fewer calories than you burn. The NHS gives some useful advice on calorie counting and recipes.
Studies show that those who log their food lose more weight and maintain their weight better. There are lots of apps and websites out there to help you by providing quick and easy ways to log the food and calorie count what you eat on the go, wherever you are.
By eating less calories than you are burning, you should see your stomach overhang reduce in time.
Insulin is the hormone that distributes blood sugar within our bodies as an energy source. Once insulin has fully supplied the energy to each tissue and cells, the insulin uses any surplus to create reserve fuel in storage units.
That storage is often located in the stomach area! Insulin spikes when you eat foods with a high sugar level and the insulin increases its activity but your body can’t break down this fat when insulin is in motion. So you must avoid foods high in sucrose and fructose and refined carbohydrates.
The fat cells stored in your stomach overhang are energy fuels that are mean for burning – so use it to lose it! This is going to take dedication, effort and discipline.
To lose stomach overhang you have to burn fat cells in both the fat you can see directly under the skin and also the more dangerous fat that you can’t see that surrounds your organs.
Cardio such as swimming, aerobics, running or dancing will burn this excess fat store.
HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) is the fastest way to trim down stomach fat. For example, studies have shown that it is best to do short bursts of exercise, such as sprinting for 10 seconds on a treadmill and then walking for 20 seconds.
Exercises such as oblique twists, planking and crunches will also tone the lower stomach area.
Everyone is sure to like the idea of burning fat even when you are resting! You can do this by weight training. When you are building lean muscle mass your body keeps on burning that fat even when you are in the recovery phase after your session.
When beginning to weight train, you should ask a trainer to create a program for you which focuses on the abdominal muscles. You can then create a ‘corset’ of muscles to hold you in for a flatter stomach.
Understanding food digestion
We burn more calories digesting protein than we do eating carbohydrates or fat. We also burn twice as many calories digesting whole food than processed food.
By making simple swaps in your diet, such as eating wholemeal bread instead of white bread, you can burn calories faster.
When you are stressed your body takes on a ‘fight or flight’ survival mode. You get a sudden influx of stress hormones including insulin and cortisol.
You will then find yourself craving sweet foods such as chocolate and ice cream and salty foods such as crisps and highly processed junk food. Your body will then store those calories as a survival deposit – often on the stomach area.
There are so many ways to actively reduce your stress levels, including:
- Massage (especially aromatherapy)
- Reading a book
- Avoiding caffeine
- Making sure you get 7-8 hours sleep each night
- Exercising – making sure it’s something you enjoy!
- Spending time outside
- Listening to music
- Spending time with friends
- A break away
If you have been trying to reduce your stomach overhang for a long time and you still aren’t seeing the results that you want, then it may well be time to consider surgery, but do bear in mind that your surgical results will be more positive if you are following a healthy diet and exercise routine.